Digital poverty in the UK: analysis of secondary data

by Professor George Dafoulas, Dr Akiko Ueno and Professor Charles Dennis

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This report presents findings of digital poverty across the UK as a whole by analysing two datasets from each of two sources: (i) two OFCOM surveys, each of over 3,000 respondents; and (ii) two Labour Force Survey (LFS) datasets from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), before and during the Covid-19 pandemic (Covid), each of over 68,000 respondents.

Results confirm the association of digital poverty with deprivation. Various factors are identified to be associated with digital poverty in the UK such as: age; lack of confidence in reading and writing; lower socio-economic classification (SEC); disability; lower housing tenure; lack of qualifications; more than one person in household; urban rather than rural; and finally, ethnic minority. Age is more strongly associated with digital poverty for females than males. For ethnic minorities, disability is much more strongly associated with digital poverty than for the white majority. Lack of motivation to use the Internet can affect all groups.

Digital poverty increases almost exponentially with age; over 65s suffer much more digital poverty than younger age groups. Lack of reading and writing is a major predictor of digital poverty among young people aged 16-24.

Covid disproportionately affected more disadvantaged groups in that those of lower SEC and disabled suffered more digital poverty during Covid than before.

Digital poverty has an impact on productivity that is even greater during than before Covid, and people in digital poverty tend to be in lower-paid jobs both during and before Covid. The findings reveal that people in London, Southeast and Southwest regions are suffering less from digital poverty than the rest of the UK. The main challenges associated with tackling digital poverty are discussed followed by recommendations to overcome those issues.

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